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Here We Go Again

As we prepare for our daughter to go back to school at the end of this month, I've gone back to working from home.

I returned to my office after the 4th of July, took down my March 2020 wall calendar, and worked onsite for one month before the delta variant had me hauling away my office's potted plants once again.

Here we go again.

I'm sad, and I'm letting myself feel that.

Today, I'll get my hair cut for the last time before my daughter can be fully vaccinated. At that joyful time, we'll schedule a mother-daughter visit to the salon. I hope that it happens before her next birthday in January 2022.

Back to WFH. Back to masking (or double-masking) in public and staying home whenever possible. 

Working from home suits me just fine, but the reason I need to do it again has me feeling profoundly sad. I sat alone in my office on Friday and shouted some swears into the void. Then I took a few breaths and started loading up my car with houseplants. Again.

Around the same time that I realized I'd be working remotely again, my husband got in touch with our daughter's new principal and was assured that there will be a universal mask mandate and all other safety protocols indicated by our state's leading epidemiologists. Our superintendent, as in prior years, considers the children's safety a top priority and will listen to the experts without allowing the conspiracy nut gallery to sway her decisions. (Not the principal's phrasing!) We expected as much, but it was a big relief to receive that reassurance. All of the urban school districts in our area have established universal mask mandates, but most of the rural areas around us (close around us) have not, and their vaccination rates are also presumably lower. Parents who have not been indoctrinated into conspiracy-driven death cults have been cornered into the decision to disenroll their children from school, weeks before the first day of class. 

I'm not sorry I won't be commuting to work anymore. Now I'll be able to drive my daughter to and from school so that she can avoid riding on a packed bus in the midst of a pandemic.

I won't miss my commute, but I'm sad about why it's gone.

Not only are we riding up another spike of unnecessary suffering and death, but I'm unnerved at how often my husband and I have lately witnessed people losing their minds on the streets, screaming insanely at nobody, causing vehicle accidents, engaging in self-harm out in broad daylight, and threatening others with violence. Even at the normally tender hours around sunrise, the world feels dark (and looks literally dark with wildfire smoke closing in from Canada and the West) and dangerous once again.

I'm glad we saw some old friends and shared some hugs earlier this summer. It will be a long, lonely fall and winter. Again.

I'm glad that my husband and I spent a lot of time this summer fixing up our house, planting crops and new flowers, and catching up on medical care. 

Yesterday morning it was warm, with a light rain that seemed to clear the smoke from the air a little bit and keep the mosquitoes from flying around the front porch. I sat there sipping my coffee, surrounded by foliage--a hugely blooming rose of sharon to my left, then my little grove of apple trees, a native pollinator bed at my feet, morning glories and moonflowers climbing the wall to my right, and in front of me, an arch made by two mature lilac trees opening upon a view of my funny little suburban cornfield fenced along the back by sunflowers, native bean vines, and a prolific squash vine practically frothing with mini tiger stripe pumpkins. 

I listened to the raindrops pattering, the birds singing, and church bells ringing out a melody in the distance. It is good to notice moments of peace like this, and to drink them up like medicine.

In the car, I have parked Bjork's Vespertine in the old CD player, a peaceful and healing soundtrack for a stressful time. Last week, during what turned out to be my last week of commuting to work for a while, I sang along:

I can decide
What I give
But it's not up to me
What I get given
Unthinkable surprises
About to happen
But what they are
It's not up to you
(Well, it never really was)

And:

Sweetly
(It's not meant to be a strife)

To enjoy
It's not meant to be a struggle uphill...
It's warmer now
Lean into it
Unfold
In a generous way
Surrender, surrender
(It's not meant to be a strife)
(It's not meant to be a struggle uphill)
Undo, undo
It's not meant to be a strife
It's not meant to be a struggle uphill
I'm praying
To be
In a generous mood
The kindness kind
(The kindness kind)
To share me
(To share me)...
If you're bleeding
Undo
And if you're sweating
Undo
If you're crying, darling
Undo
Undo

The sadness will come for us all, whether we are too busy or fearful to let it out yet, so I'm trying to let it run through me as it comes and not let it get stuck where it could transform, with time and repression, into something harder to overcome. We are not nearly done with the grief. We will receive more than we can hold. We have to release it when we can.

My daughter hasn't seen any of her friends in person since June. My family hopes that her school won't have to lock down again. We hope that the local hospital will stop filling up while it bleeds dry of burned out, traumatized staff. We hope that we won't lose any more loved ones to suicide, overdose, or violence. But we don't expect any of those outcomes. We prepare ourselves for them even as we do all we can to avoid them.

We hold our loved ones in care and do everything we have learned how to do to survive this next wave.

Vaccines.

Masks.

Distance.

Boundaries.

Exercise. Getting outside when the air quality isn't too bad. Eating healthy. Practicing kindness. Communing with nature and art. Getting enough sleep. Forgiving ourselves when insomnia comes, and taking that lonesome time to read an old book. Drinking enough water. Knowing that this will end, someday, one way or another, and that the world on the other side will need us to be whole.

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